The Black West: A Documentary and Pictoral History of the African American Role in the Westward Expansion of the United States

William Loren Katz, Author Harlem Moon $17.95 (318p) ISBN 978-0-7679-1231-0
""No phase of our national heritage has been portrayed . . . as more typically American than the old West,"" Katz writes, ""yet this particular slice of Americana has consistently been pictured as lily-white."" The indefatigable author of more than three-score books about American history, more than a dozen of which treat African American history, Katz sets the record straight in this revised and expanded version of his 1971 edition. The book opens with a brief treatment of the early African presence in the New World and closes with equal brevity in the 1890s as the frontier closes. The substantial middle is peopled by African American pioneers-trappers, mountain men, cowhands, settlers, soldiers, miners, mail-order brides, con men, entrepreneurs and politicians moving west to Colorado, California and all points between. Vignettes about individuals enliven the easy-reading narrative, among them the well known Dred Scott; Mifflin Gibbs, the nation's first African American judge; the adventurous Cathay Williams, who, masquerading as a man, served in the infantry; and the notorious Rufus Buck Gang that ""took more lives than the infamous Dalton and Starr gangs combined."" Katz's ample inclusion of women is particularly noteworthy, as are the illustrations (on nearly every page) that add to the comprehensiveness of the text. Likely to appeal more to younger readers than history scholars, the expanded text and photos included in this edition make this a fine candidate for libraries and history buffs' bookshelves. Photos.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
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